Ab Training 101: Training for Aesthetics

As mentioned in the first article of this series, the “abs” are some of the most coveted muscles to have and a popular characteristic of what would be considered a fit physique. Again, here’s a big secret for everyone. You ALL have abs. If you didn’t, you probably wouldn’t be able to stand let alone sit up straight without falling backwards. If you did not read the first article on ab training which goes into great detail on the muscles of the abdomen and their functions, I suggest you go back and check it out here.

Now on to how to train your abdominals in regards to bodybuilding, body composition, etc. Let me start off by saying a common phrase I first heard from IFBB Pro Men’s Physique competitor, Steve Cook. According to Steve, “Abs are made in the kitchen.” I have always told my clients this phrase any time they ask about abs. If your diet does not reflect one of a healthy lifestyle, no amount of crunches or hanging legs raises is going to help you see your abdominals. In order to have a visible rectus abdominus, you need to have a low percentage of body fat. If you have diet consisting of foods that lead to an increased amount of body fat, it’s no wonder you can not see your abs. It’s simple, you cannot out train a bad diet.

Let’s assume you are eating clean to begin with and you have established a relatively low level of body fat and are wanting to further develop your abdomen through specific training. There is a lot of information out there about all these different ab machines, exercises, training techniques, and most of it is hoopla. Not that those trainers on the internet do not know what they are talking about (some of them certainly don’t), beginning to train the abdomen is much simpler than it’s made out to be.

If you are just starting to train the abdominals directly, a good place to start would be to throw about 3-5 sets of ab specific training at the end of your workouts, 3-5 times a week. A simple ab finisher could look like this…

3-5 Rounds:

25 Crunches

10 Hanging Leg/Knee Raises (or 25 Reverse Crunches)

This basic workout inspired by Arnold’s own beginning ab workouts, trains both the upper abs that insert into the rib cage, and the lower abs that insert into the pubic bone. Many people often only do crunches for endless amounts of reps. Essentially half of the rectus abdominus is being left untrained! A basic ab finisher should train both the upper and lower end of the abdominals.

Once you have trained your abs consistently for about 4-8 weeks, it is time to introduce new movements that also train the oblique muscles as well as an increase in ab training volume. The ab twist/seated twist/broomstick twist is a great exercise I picked up when researching training techniques from three-time Mr. Olympia, Frank Zane. As mentioned in the previous article, Frank Zane had absolutely amazing abs. It is noted he would do 1,000 reps of ab exercises when training for the Mr. Olympia competition! The ab twist as I call them is not an exercise designed to build up the obliques like a weighted crunch would for the upper abdominals, but more so to tone and tighten the obliques to add to the small waist illusion. Frank Zane trained his obliques so hard with twisting exercises that his obliques nearly “disappeared”. Training and developing well constructed and developed abdominals requires hitting all sides of the abdomen with different stimulus and ranges of motion.

frank-zane-posing.jpg The next progression for ab training would be up your minimum for ab finishers to five days a week like they did in the 70’s. Often times, Arnold, Franco Columbu, Frank Zane, Ken Waller, and the gang would perform ab exercises at the beginning of their workout as a warm up (more on that later) as well as at night five days a week. An intermediate level ab routine could look like this…

Monday, Wednesday, & Friday:

3-5 Rounds:

25 Weighted Crunches

10 Hanging Leg Raises

Tuesday, Thurs, & Saturday*

*If you regularly train on Saturday

3-5 Rounds:

25 Reverse Crunches

25 Ab Twists (Each Side)

After another 4-8 weeks of consistent ab training in this fashion, it is time to introduce a new stimulus. More volume. The abdominal muscles respond incredibly well to volume when prescribed correctly. I mentioned before how people will attempt to create better abs by doing hundreds upon hundreds of crunches and not see any results. If that is the only ab exercises they are doing, the muscles of the abdomen will adapt and not be changed or affected by the repetitive stimulus they are given.

During the Golden Era of bodybuilding, many famous bodybuilders would use ab training as a warm up. This technique is still used today, but is rarely seen. I personally read about Arnold warming up every workout with 500 reps of Roman Chair Sit Ups, as well as specific ab training at night, but never gave it much thought until recently. During the last training cycle before the 2017 GrapplingX Brazilian Jiu Jitsu NorCal Championships, I began doing some simple ab work during my warm ups and before my heavy squats. After two weeks I saw an incredible difference. My abs were thicker, my waist was slightly smaller, and my lower abs were more defined than they were during the 2016 Tahoe Show! These “warm up” abs were also paired with my nightly ab routine that I do 4-5 times a week. Keeping the awesome results I saw in mind, I am continuing to train my abs during the warm up of my workout even during this bulking phase I am currently in. The goal is to develop them so much that even when I am at the peak of my bulk with some expected bodyfat gain, they are still relatively visible. When it’s time for the cut back down, they should in turn look better than ever.

Once you have gone through the first two sample ab workouts listed above, and you’re looking for something new, or want found that your ab training is growing stale, I highly suggest you take note of the bodybuilders of the Golden Era and do ab training both as part of your warm up and at the end of your workout or a night. It is a great way to increase the volume of your ab training as well as hit all parts of the abdomen without keeping you in the gym forever. 15 minutes in the morning, and 15-20 minutes at night has been my recent formula when training my abdominals for aesthetics. When I was training for the 2016 Tahoe Show, I would perform about 100-300 reps of weighted crunches and about 50 ab wheels every night before bed. Cory Gregory is most famously noted for his #Squateveryday, or #Squatlife training methods, although he also does weighted crunches and ab wheels almost every night before bed. His abs are self labeled, “bricks” that are similar to Zane’s ab development.

Taking from Arnold, Zane, and Cory Gregory, this is my current ab routine that has helped me develop my abs during my preparation for the 2017 GrapplingX BJJ tournament (I know you don’t need perfectly sculpted abs for jiu jitsu, but I still enjoy training to maintain my physique as well as train specifically for sport). The results of this ab training yielded results for my abdominal area even better than those at the 2016 Tahoe Show!

AM Ab Training: 6 times a week before each workout mixed in with the warm up.

3 Rounds:

15 Back Ext

5 Bodyweight GHR

10 Hanging Straight Leg Raises

25 Ab Twists (each side)

PM Ab Training: 4-6 times a week either right when I get home from Jiu Jitsu, or before I go to bed.

3-5 Rounds*:

30 Weighted Crunches w/ a 25lb plate

10 Ab Wheels

*Sometimes I will throw in an additional ab exercises to changed things up a bit. For example, reverse crunches following the ab wheels for 30 reps.

Stayed tuned for the next and final article in this series, Ab Training 101: Training for Performance. To have abdominals that look great is one thing, but having an abdomen that is both strong, stable, and sturdy is another. This upcoming article will focus on how the abdominals brace the spine and different methods of training to strengthen the midsection.

Ab Training 101: Part 1

The “abs” are often one of the most desired muscle groups to “have” when people begin to think about summer or fat loss. I will let you all in on a little secret and inform you that you ALL have abs. Everyone was born with the rectus abdominus muscle group, although some may have theirs more pronounced and revealing than others. That’s okay! Not everyone needs a six pack! Depending on what type of athlete you are and what your current goals are and what your body type is, chasing a six pack may not be the best thing for you at this stage in your fitness/athletic career. When people think of “abs”/core they traditionally think of a 6/8-pack, although the core includes many other muscles deep under one’s rectus abdominus as well as the lateral and posterior sides of the body (the back). Given that this blog caters also towards the sport of bodybuilding and people who want to change their physique along with athletes looking to enhance performance, I will address both groups. Part one of this series will be a short introduction to the abdominal muscles, their functions, locations, and different ranges of motion. The second article will address how to train your abdominal muscles for aesthetics, a.k.a, how to get a six pack. The third and final article will primarily focus on training the abs and midsection for performance in sport.


What Muscles Make Up the “Abs”/Core?

The main muscles of the abdomen include the rectus abdominus, the external obliques, and the intercostals. They are located on the frontal plane of the torso and run from the bottom of the chest and mid rib cage, down to the pelvis. These are the superficial muscles of the abdomen that you can see when someone is in incredible shape at a very low percentage of body fat. Some of the internal muscles of the midsection include, the transverse abdominus, the internal obliques, diaphragm, and the spinal erectors. These muscles in conjunction with one another help brace the spine, flex the torso in global flexion (bending over or “crunching”) and extend the torso in global extension (bending backwards or arching the back).

Rectus Abdominus (Image 1.A):

The rectus abdominis originates at the base of pelvis in the pubis, and inserts into the cartilage of the fifth, sixth, and seventh ribs. It’s main function is to contract and flex the spinal column, drawing it toward the pelvis. The rectus abdominus muscle is what people often call a “6-pack” or “8-pack” if their are in very good condition and have a low percentage of body fat.

External Obliques (Image 1.B):

The external obliques (obliquus externus abdominis) are located on either side of the torso originating at the lower ribs and inserting at the side of the pelvis. Their main function is to assist the rectus abdominus in flexing to spinal column forward as well as rotate the spinal column in a neutral, flexed, and/or extended position.

Intercostals (Image 1.C):

The intercostals are two thin planes are muscle and tendon that populate the space between the ribs. Their main function is to lift the ribs as well as contract and draw them together.

Transverse Abdominus (Image 1.D):

The transverse abdominus is located deep underneath the obliques and wraps entirely the spine. It’s main function is to properly brace and protect the spine in both a neutral, flexed, and/or extended position both unloaded (bodyweight movements) and loaded (weighted movements).

Internal Obliques (Image 1.E):

The internal obliques are located underneath the external obliques on either side. It’s main function is to support the abdominal wall, helps create pressure in the torso during forced respiration, and also assist other muscles of the midsection in rotation of the spine.

Diaphragm (Image 1.F):

The diaphragm is located underneath the ribs and is a large sheet of muscle that assist in respiration as well as separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity.

Spinal Erectors (Image 1.G):

The spinal erectors are located on the posterior (back side) of the torso and run from the lumbar region of the back through the thoracic region and into the cervical region. Their main function is to assist in global extension of the spinal column, as well as bracing the spine.


Why Do We Need to Train All Sides of Our Midsection?

The body does not just function in any one plane of movement. When it comes to abdominal training, often times people will only train the front of their midsection, leaving the sides, and back completely untouched. Sure, the sides and lower posterior muscles of the midsection get stimulus from exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges, and overhead work while standing by assisting with balance and bracing during the exercise. Although, if someone is training only their rectus abdominus in hopes for a six pack, they can often create imbalances that could lead to injury. The same idea applies to sport as well. Depending on the sport, the front of the abdominal region may experience a lot of load and stimulus from being in global flexion, while the muscles of the lower back are not being stimulated to achieve eliminate muscular imbalances.

In sport, our bodies are moving in many directions. Very rarely do athletes move in a completely linear plane. In a sport like wrestling or jiujitsu, the body is often twisting, arching, and bending in many positions while under load from their opponent. When an athlete like a wrestler or a jiujitsu athlete has a strong rectus abdominus from the endless amount of crunches they do at the end of their workout, they can perform well in movements involving global flexion. Any time they need to move into global extension, such as lifting their opponent off their feet from a takedown, their spinal erectors, and transverse abdominus often have a hard time bracing the spine properly. This leaves the athlete very susceptible to injury. Take a sport like powerlifting for example, where the spine needs to be maximally braced by the muscles surrounding it to be protected and produce the maximum amount of force in a lift. In an exercise like the deadlift, if the spine is not braced the athlete risks slipping a disk in the vertebrae, and leaking force production and strength through poor technique. 


In a sport like bodybuilding, having well trained abs is a must. The quality of a bodybuilding competitors abdominal region is a reflection of how well they dieted and conditioned during prep, as well as how well they were able to train their abs to take a particular shape and look on stage. Not just the “8 pack”, but all sides of the abdominals. According to Arnold Schwarzenegger in his book, The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, he refers to the abs at the, “…visual center of the body.” (Schwarzenegger & Dobbins, 1998). When viewing the human physique, they are naturally drawn to the abdominal area of the body. The shoulders and feet act as the points in an “X” shape across the body with the abs lying in the intersection. Well trained and displayed abs in bodybuilding are signs or being in well conditioned as well as having dense and strong physique. The muscles in the sides and lower back of the midsection must also be trained to achieve a balanced look between the anterior and posterior sides of the body.

image Frank Zane trained the obliques with the use of exercises like the abs twist to make his external obliques almost, “disappear”. They were specifically trained and developed to be tight and lean, making his waist appearing very small compared to his wide lats and large shoulders, thus adding to the illusion of the “X” frame.

    The muscles of the midsection include more than what we can see from someone’s six pack and their purpose is more than just for doing crunches. The abdominal region is composed of many other muscles that for aesthetic purposes must be trained individually, as well as trained as a whole for improving athletic performance. In the next article, we will focus on how to train and develop one’s abdominal area for the sport of bodybuilding and/or physical appearance.


Muscles of the Abdomen:


Abs-Rectus-abdominis-muscle(Image 1.A)

external-obliques.jpg(Image 1.B)

intercostals(Image 1.C)


Transversus_abdominis(Image 1.D)

internal-obliques(Image 1.E)

diaphragm (Image 1.F)

Spinal Erectors.png(Image 1.G)

My Three Favorite Back Exercises for Grapplers

The following are my three personal favorite exercises to strengthen and develop the back for grappling athletes. Let me make clear that these exercises are my favorite. This does not mean they are the only exercises I do for back. I utilize many different exercises for back (a full list of exercises will be at the end of the article), but of all of them, these are my favorites and why.

Pull Ups:

Franco Pull Up

The pull up is the king and staple of old school body weight wrestling training. Not only does is help establish grip strength (which is a crucial component of wrestling and jiujitsu), it requires you to be strong with your own bodyweight. This is very important when you are competing with other athletes who are competing at the same weight as you. The exercise is simple. Hang on the bar with both arms lock out, then pull yourself up until your chin rises above the bar. Then lower yourself ALL the way down. There’s one correct pull up. Pull ups help develop the lats which make up the major vertical pulling muscles in your back. I know what you’re thinking, “When am I ever going to do a pull up in competition?” How about a snap down in wrestling? Since last i checked there was no “snap down” machine at the gym, pull ups are the next best developer of the muscles used to pull things down, and or close into your body. You can add these at the end of your workout, or if you have a pull up bar set up in your home, every time you walk by you can bust out 5-10 pull ups.

Sample Pull Up Finisher:

5 sets of sub max reps (if you can do 10 max, only do 7-8)


franco deadlift

If the squat is the greatest strength building exercise, deadlifts come in a close second. Deadlifts assist in strengthening your posterior chain (the chain of muscles running from the base of your neck, down to the bottom of your hamstrings). A strong posterior chain, traditionally means a safe back. When you’re in your wrestling stance, or in constant flexion having someone in your guard, or being in someone’s guard, having a strong posterior chain will protect your back. Deadlifts are also a great measure of strength. For grappling athletes, if you can deadlift 2x your bodyweight, and your opponent can only deadlift 1.5x his bodyweight, you are superiorly stronger. With all the lifting, throwing, and tossing in wrestling, the deadlift will help you handle your opponents with ease all while still being able to protect your spine. Take folkstyle wrestling for example. Say you start on top in referee’s position and your opponent is quick to stand up. If you want to pick him up and return him back to the mat, you need to lift him off balance and off the ground. The deadlift in all variations is just that movement. The practice of picking up objects (barbells, DB’s KB’s, atlas stones, sandbags, etc.) off the ground.

Sample Deadlift Workout:

One of the easiest ways to incorporate deadlifts into your strength training is a simple, 5×5 set up. Starting at one day a week, do five sets of five reps for deadlift and try to make each rep with perfect form, slowly adding weight each week. This works with both sumo and conventional stance.

Bent Over Barbell Rows:

Franco Bent Over Row

I should preface this by saying, any horizontal rowing motion is a fantastic exercise for the back in regards to grappling. Although, if I had to choose one, it would be the bent over row. The bent over row not only focuses on strengthening the muscles of your back responsible for pulling things to you in a horizontal plane, but also requires you to stay tight and in good position. This activates the muscles of the lower back isometrically (staying in a static position), and works the rowing muscles of the upper back, both eccentrically (lowering of the weight) and concentrically (actually lifting of the weight). Bent over Rows can be used with barbells, dumbbells, kettle bells, sand bags, etc. You can ever do them on a elevated surface to let the weights down even lower to get a stretch in the muscles during the eccentric portion of the lift. Not only is this exercise for back development, but also helps eliminate imbalances in the back. I see a lot of people do a lot of vertical pulling (pull ups, lat pull downs, etc.), and not enough horizontal pulling exercises. Imbalances in the body lead to injury and time away from rolling.

Sample Bent Over Row Workout:

Any Chest Exercise: 4×6-8

Bent Over DB Row: 4×6-8

This can be thrown in at the beginning of a chest and back workout.

You can also apply the 5×5 method to the bent over Row to focus more on developing strength in the mid and upper back.

Current List of Back Exercises I’m Using Right Now:

Pull Ups (Use many different grips)

Deadlifts (Conventional and Sumo stance)


Bent Over Rows (DB, KB, and Barbell Variations)

Banded Reverse Hypers

GHR (Weighted and Bodyweight)

45 Degree Back Extensions (Weighted and Bodyweight)

Seated Rows

1 Arm DB Rows

RDLs (DB’s, KB’s & Barbell Variations)

Where I’ve Been & What’s Next?

     The website I was originally so eager to flood with content, has been dryer than the Sahara Desert. At the time of starting up the website, I had just started a new full time semester of college as well as balancing three different jobs. To say I was busy just as I was eager is an understatement. I do not want this to be an excuse for absence. Although the things I had to do quickly took up most of my time compared to the things I wanted to do.

     Tim Ferriss has stated several times that, “If you find yourself running out of time often, your priorities are not right.”  From August to the beginning of December, my priorities were not right. I was being pulled in to many directions, stretched across educational goals, relationship maintenance, and financial necessity. At the turn of the new year, I was able to get all the hours need to meet my monthly minimum at one occupation. Thank you, Jesus. Not only did this help me save on gas, but it made life much simpler.

    I do not intend for this post to be a concoction of stories about being stressed and fatigued. There are many people who are busier and more stressed than myself. I wanted to address that absence, and return to doing what I love doing. Lifting weights, and helping athletes be the best they can be through strength and conditioning.

     I cannot promise that the website will be the most up to date and the most educational and user friendly site on sport specific strength and conditioning out there, but I can promise a substantial effort to provide the best content I can as frequently as I can.

    So if you are reading this because of my Instagram post, thank you. Stay tuned. My personal workouts and training logs, client testimonials, nutritional advice and training programming is on its way.

    As far as what is next, I decided it was time to set new goals and pursue new experiences. What started my athletic career was the martial arts. I trained in the art of Bok Fu underneath, Dave Marinoble for four years, as well as Jujitsu under Marinoble for 3 years. When I began wrestling year long in high school, I was no longer training with Marinoble.

    After feeling the burn out of competitive high school wrestling and a over year long break from combative sports, I felt the itch to come back. The college I am at does not have a wrestling team, and I am not complaining. I wanted to get back to my first love. Jujitsu and Brazilian Jiujitsu.

    The first week of the year I returned to Marinobles and signed up for their grappling programs. This is now my current competitive venture. Upon signing up I realized I have four weeks to train and get ready for their annual winter season tournament on February 4th, 21017.

    After some changes to my current training program and schedule, I am ready to put the rubber to the road and prepare best I can for the tournament. Follow me and my daily workouts and updates on how training is going and what I am doing specifically to prepare. As of today, I am 24 days out, so in the words of Jocko Willink, it is time to GET AFTER IT.

Body Type Breakdown (PART 1)

Intro to Body Types:


Each human being is largely different from the next. That is what makes us unique as well as fearfully and wonderfully made. Some people have taller and more slender frames, while others are more compact and short. There is no perfect body type. There are body types that are drawn towards certain activities (for instance taller people tend to play basketball), but none the less there are people who do not fit the traditional body type of an activity and can still be successful. Fortunately, exercise is beneficial to ALL body types and there are different ways to eat and train depending on your body type. A simple way to categorize different body types is to look at the fundamental different physical shapes. This is called somatotyping. There are three different somatotypes: ectomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph.


This is the category that many basketball players, track athletes and swimmers are found in. An ectomorph is described in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding as such, “Characterized by a short upper body, long arms and legs, long and narrow feet and hands, and very little fat storage; narrowness of the chest and shoulders, with generally long, thin muscles.” (pg. 162) You’ll find many ectomorphs in sports like basketball, cross country, and swimming. Ectomorphs tend to have a harder time putting on quality muscle mass than losing fat. This can be a great attribute depending on the sport you are in. I am an ecto-mesomorph (we will get into cross overs later) and was not largely muscular when I wrestled, but I almost never had problem with weight cutting for wrestling due to the weight class I was in, and I did not have excess stores of fat to lose to stay in that weight class.

UFC 148: Silva v Sonnen II
LAS VEGAS, NV – JULY 7: Anderson Silva reacts to his victory over Chael Sonnen during their UFC middleweight championship bout at UFC 148 inside MGM Grand Garden Arena on July 7, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Anderson Silva; Chael Sonnen

Anderson “The Spider” Silva is a great example of an ectomorph. He has a short midsection and incredibly long arms and legs which definitely aide him in his advanced striking abilities. From a bodybuilding perspective, Frank Zane is one who has many of the traditional ectomorph tropes. He had a slender frame and long limbs, smaller joints and had a harder time with putting on muscle mass as opposed to other bodybuilders of that era.



Mesomorphs have a more traditional “athletic build”. They have thicker and denser muscle structure than an ectomorph, and tend to store less fat than the last category, an endomorph. In Arnold’s Encyclopedia, his description of a mesomorph is, “Large chest, long torso, solid muscle structure and great strength.” (pg. 162) You can find mesomorphs in a wide variety of disciplines, as they can at times be more adaptable to whatever sport they are participating in.

Former UFC welterweight champion of the world, Georges St. Pierre embodies a traditional mesomorph. He has a great amount of muscle development as well as a low percentage of body fat. He is only 5’10” and fights at 170 which is allows him to be one of the strongest welterweights in the world, and is regarded as the best athlete in the UFC.


Another classic mesomorph type is Lu Xiaojun. Lu is one of the best weightlifters in the world boasting a world record snatch at 177kg (390lbs) and competes at the same weight as GSP, 170lbs. His long torso and short limbs creates a perfect template for a weightlifter. His torso length helps support the tremendous amount of weight he is lifting in a nearly vertical position that is perfect for his short and powerful legs to drive up out of the whole.

Mesomorphs can more easily be identified by the sports they are not in. Such as basketball. Traditionally you won’t find many mesomorphs in basketball because they simply are not tall enough to successfully handle the ball amongst so many tall ectomorphs. Same logic applies with strongman. A mesomorph can definitely compete in strongman, but at the highest level and on the biggest stage such as the Arnold Classic and The World’s Strongest Man competitions the field is dominated by endomorphs.


An endomorph is a body type that many couple with the word “stocky”. This is not to be taken as a negative connotation with overweight. You can find endomorphs in the upper weight classes of combat sports, weightlifting, and powerlifting. Again referring to the definition in Arnold’s Encyclopedia, endomorphs have, “… soft musculature, round face, short neck, wide hips, and heavy fat storage.” (pg. 162)


Brock Lesnar is a perfect example of an endomorph. He has an incredible amount of muscle, although it is not as hard or dense as someone like Lu Xiaojun or GSP’s. He has a short and sturdy neck, in addition to large hips. His large hips generate an insane amount of power that helped him double leg all the competition in the NCAA wrestling tournament, WWE, and UFC. He embodies what would be a “stocky” guy. As mentioned earlier, this is not a bad thing. His size and weight is used to his advantage.

Former Mr. Olympia, Jay Cutler, is another classic endomorph. He used his larger joint structure and thicker frame to his advantage in creating a physique that displayed sheer mass and size. His endomorphic characteristics dwarfed some of the other ectomorph and even mesomorphic opponents. Body type isn’t the only part that counts in bodybuilding, but knowing your body type and how to train properly based on that body type can go a long way.


Like I mentioned earlier, people come in all shapes and sizes. More likely than not, people are a mix of two categories. They can have very endomorphic characteristics and serious diet and exercise, can look mesomorphic. I am an ecto-mesomorph which means I have good muscle structure and low body fat. It is really hard for me to gain weight because of these characteristics. In part two we will discuss how these different need different diets training programs depending on the goal of the individuals. Knowing you’re body type is important to ensuring you have a program that compliments your body type and your goals well.


Stay tuned for Part Two next week.

Stretching, Flexing and Posing During Workouts

Many times when I am looking for some sort of new edge or flair to spice up my training I routinely look to the great bodybuilders of the 70’s, Golden Era of Bodybuilding. Bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu, Frank Zane, Ed Corney and Lou Ferrigno. They had some of the most amazing physiques and really put bodybuilding on the map. Their amazing intensity and grueling workouts were caught in the documentary “Pumping Iron” (1977) which gave the public an insider look into this fringe sport.

The training techniques of the Golden Era, have been slowly being replaced with the newest and flashiest of supplements and TV ad exercise machines. When I feel my training is beginning to grow a little stale, I will often pop open Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding (1985) and it never fails to show me a new side of training.

Recently, I have discovered the implementation of stretching, flexing and posing between sets of your workout. For example, when you train back, performing some sort of stretch for your lats after each set of pull downs and holding a double bicep pose. That is just one example.

I had skimmed over this technique in Arnold’s book before and never gave it much consideration (something I wish I did in prepping for the 2016 Tahoe Show). It wasn’t until I really began to study Frank Zane and his training techniques that I applied it to my own training. In the article, “The Growth Program, Then and Now – Frank Zane” from his website (www.frankzane.com), Zane discusses his program for growth when training for the Mr. Olympia contest.


Just to give a little more credit to his name, Zane is one of only three men to have beaten Arnold at the Olympia contest and also holds three Olympia titles of his own! Zane discusses his stretching techniques in saying, “I’d do plenty of stretching with the two-arm lat stretch between sets and take my time before venturing into the next set. My upper back, traps, and spinal erectors got much thicker doing this and my back got wider.” The stretching between sets helps lengthen the muscles, which aids in getting a full contraction for each rep. Fuller contraction for more reps, compounds into better quality sets for more workouts.

Arnold in his encyclopedia, mentions how stretching, specifically the lats can help create a longer sweep of the lats that tie very low into the waistline. When muscles are contracting against accommodating resistance, in this case weight training, muscles can get tight and short. When they tighten up or tacked down, the muscles cannot contract fully and aren’t using the maximum amount of muscle fibers possible. This is why it is common practice to stretch before and after your work out. This pre workout stretching helps prepare the muscles to be used to the best of their ability, while post workout stretching aides in keeping the muscles from cramping up once you are done exercising. Stretching during your workout will assist your muscles to lengthen and grow in size.


Here are starting points for stretching between sets in your workout:

  • When stretching between sets, stretch the muscles for 15-30 seconds (per advice from Frank Zane. More information is in the article mentioned above).
  • Keep the mind-muscle connection not only in the contraction, but also in the stretching. Making sure to let the muscles “breathe”. This mind-muscle connection gives you a better feel, and greater control of the muscle.
  • Do not forget to breathe! When doing any kind of stretching, breathe through your nose deep into your diaphragm, and exhale through your mouth slowly. It seems like it would be simple to just breathe, but many times people are breathing incorrectly. Some common breathing faults are breathing shallow into your chest, and breathing too fast and too short. Take long deep breathes, keeping it slow and controlled.


One thing I did take from Arnold’s book in my prep for the 2016 Tahoe Show, was flexing and posing between sets. Arnold explains in his book how posing is such a crucial part to competition and successful competitors have all mastered the art and delicacy of posing on stage. Not only is posing crucial to competition, but it can also be a great body weight workout. In his book he mentions how, “… posing and flexing your [muscles] in order to gain full control over the muscles needed to show [them] effectively in competition.” Now for someone who is not looking to dawn the posing trunks and compete, posing and flexing between sets can still be beneficial to your workout.

Although you can train your muscles with weights in an incredibly detailed manner, you still will not be able refine each singular muscle. Training and working out primarily hits the bigger muscles and muscle groups. Muscles like the pec major, latissimus dorsi, glutes, etc. Some of those smaller and more detailed muscles like the serratus and obliques can be carved out more dramatically through posing. When Arnold would train for the Olympia, he would practice his posing for up to four hours a day!


Arnold describes the benefit of posing as such, “A basic physique is developed by training, but posing adds sharpness and quality… A bodybuilder who trains, but never poses is like an uncut diamond—the quality is there potentially, but it cannot be seen.”


When training for the 2016 Tahoe Show, about 5-6 weeks out, I would flex and pose between each set. For example, when I was training chest and back, I would do a most muscular pose and flex as hard as I possibly could for 20-30 seconds, and then do a back double bicep pose or mimic the peak of a seated row movement for another 20-30 seconds. Doing this after every set helped me not only get a way better pump, but also learn how to have better control of my muscles. This posing was a huge help in developing muscular endurance and muscle control. I wish I had been doing this sort of training during the full 18 weeks of prep and not just last five. You live and learn, right?

I hope you find these little morsels from the past to be beneficial in your training. I know that as soon as I began incorporating these techniques into my workouts, the quality of my workouts immediately improved and after a few weeks of consistent posing and flexing, I am seeing some amazing progress. I hope it’s the same for you guys.

Why Lunges?

Why Lunges?

If anyone is familiar with my programming or my workouts, you all know I absolutely LOVE walking lunges! Although there is a method to the madness behind all those deep steps and kisses between the ground and your knee, let me give credit to the man who first exposed me to this effective training method. Cory Gregory. I have been following Cory’s programming for my own training for over a year now and since the beginning I have been lunging around the track or down the block in my neighborhood. Cory is formerly one of the founders of the supplement company MusclePharm and now is the co-founder of Activ8 Media, co-host of the Business & Biceps podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud, and the founder of Max Effort Muscle Supplements. He also hosts his own website with all his own programming, articles and videos at corygfitness.com.

Back to the lunges. I have been lunging 400-800m, 4-5 times a week for just about a year now. Lunges have not only helped build up the definition and conditioning in my legs, but also help keep my lower back, knees, and hip joints healthy.

Whats Beneficial About Lunges?

Builds connective tissue strength in the knees and hips.

Walking lunges is a great exercise to keep your knees, hips and lower back healthy. Many people who complain about having lower back pain, more likely than not have a weak posterior chain (your erectors, hips, glutes, and hamstrings). When your posterior chain is weak, your abdominals and the muscle in the front of your trunk need to take over to stabilize your torso. Because they are not as big and powerful as your posterior chain, they tend to get fatigued fairly quickly. When they get fatigued, there are no strong muscles to stabilize your spine, and as a result your spine will fall into a bad position. Bad spinal position more likely than not can cause pain in the lower back.

Lunges are not the end all be all of exercises to build up your posterior chain, but they definitely help build up the glutes and muscles around the hip. Do you ever see those ads for videos on YouTube with titles like “Get a Big Butt Fast Workout”? I can guarantee you some sort of lunge variation is in there. Strengthening the muscles around the hip helps with stability, and will help take the work away from the abdominals.

As far as your knees go, lunging helps build up the musculature in the quads. When the muscles around the knee are strong, the knee can stay in its optimal position. Strong quads, mean strong knees, strong quads and knees mean you can squat with ease with out pain. Squatting with ease and no pain equals strong legs and a strong base, more pain free training sessions more often. The compound effect of lunging consistently helps build durability in your knee joints, and after a hard workout, help get blood flow to the area and promote recovery.

DJ lunge

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson getting his lunges in. Here’s proof that big guys can benefit from these lunges too.

Conditioning in the legs.

All the reps that you put in doing these lunges greatly helps condition your legs. Your legs will grow and be able to handle more work with the extra conditioning. It will provide more stamina in your lower body for more reps and more sets, as well as bring out some more definition in your quads (given your diet is on point). Also, its a great form of cardio. When I was prepping for my first men’s physique show, I didn’t do any form of traditional cardio like running, the stair stepper, etc. It was ALL lunges for 25-30 minutes. This doesn’t work for everyone when prepping for a show or a photo shoot, but it worked like a charm for me.

How much and how often?

A good prescription for walking lunges in this fashion would be as such:

Beginners– If you are new to training, a great starting point would be to set a timer for 10-15 minutes and start lunging. You could do this as a finisher to your leg workout, or on a rest day. As you get better, try to get up to 200-400m of lunges with in the 15 minute time cap.

Intermediate– For intermediate lifters, you can do 400m of lunges 4-5 times a week after your work out, or on your cardio day. Try to get 400m down in around 10 minutes. Once you can consistently get 400m down in 10 minutes or less, its time to change it up.

Advanced– If you’re someone who has been lunging for a while, you have 400m down in 10 minutes and you can crush it after your workout 4-5 times a week, here are some challenges for you.

  • 800m in 30 minutes or less
  • 400m with a weight vest
  • 400 with a weight vest, then 400 bodyweight



The variations are endless. Challenge your self in all areas. Time duration, speed, weight or nonweighted, etc. 4-5 times a week for 400-800m is my minimum dose for my self with a few changes here and there to keep it spicy. Lunges can help you build a strong posterior chain, condition your legs, protect your knees, and its a nice alternative to 45 minutes or more on a treadmill.

Now go out to the track, and lunge.